Major in the

Production Animal Health

If you are looking for a career in the animal health sector, the major in Production Animal Health will set you on the right path. The curriculum for this new major was developed in consultation with industry.

It will provide contact with the major production animal species and includes industry placements to help you be employment ready. You will learn best practice health assessment and management of production animals, and the economics of maximising productivity, through factors including animal health and disease, nutrition and welfare. Production system and environmental interdependence is also explored to give you an understanding of how to minimise environmental impacts, and optimise environmental factors influencing animal health, including water and feed availability.



Career opportunities available to Agriculture graduates include:

  • Animal production and health: Farm management, animal breeding, animal health, animal nutrition.
  • Crop production: Harvesting, farm management, food processing, wine production, crop science and agronomy.
  • Soil and water conservation: Forest work, soil management, research, environmental work, salinity project work, catchment management.
  • Government and policy: International trade and government roles
  • Marketing, sales and media: Conference and event management, sales representation for agricultural products, journalism, freelance writing.
  • Agribusiness or agricultural and resource economics.

Subjects you could take in this major

  • Production animals are a vital component of the agricultural sector. An understanding of the systems in which these animals are raised is essential to their management and in maximising productivity. The aim of this subject is to give students a fundamental understanding of the different animal production industries in Australia. This subject will focus on extensive production systems in particular, and the major species covered will include beef cattle, sheep and dairy cattle. This will enable students to develop a detailed understanding of the chain of production. The focus will be on production of 'food and fibre', which includes products such as meat, milk and wool. The factors that determine the location of production systems will be discussed, on-farm husbandry and management, right through to the final product.

  • This objective of this subject is to familiarise students with modern concepts of cell and organismal biology, including structure and function of multicellular organisms including cell function, systems involved in energy transformations, nutrition, water uptake, excretion, gas exchange, circulation, and immune responses; plant and animal reproduction and development; mechanisms involved in responsiveness and coordination: hormonal control in plants and animals, and nervous systems in animals; and animal movement and behaviour.

  • The collection and evaluation of technical information is essential for farm planning, precision agriculture, post harvest storage, product processing, transport, and marketing of commodities and processed goods. Success depends upon the selection of appropriate tools for the measurement, collection, storage and retrieval of data as well as techniques for evaluating this information and putting it into context.

    Subject content:

    • Measurement of parameters
    • Determination of accuracy
    • Understanding spatial and temporal information
    • Determining data reliability
    • Methods of data collection, storage and retrieval
    • Principles of data-logging
    • Analysis of data in order to reduce its complexity and achieve simpler outcomes
    • Presentation and evaluation of data for decision-support
    • Understanding the role of technical information in analysis and decision making, including triple-bottom-line assessment and maintenance of the balance between resource utilization and conservation
  • On completion, the student should have an understanding of the nature of matter, solutions and gases, the chemical change related to equilibrium, energy and kinetics, and the nature of redox processes; and structures and functional groups in organic molecules.

    In the practical component, students should develop basic laboratory skills (observation, analytical techniques, report writing) and an appreciation of the health and safety issues associated with the safe handling and disposal of laboratory chemicals.

    The subject provides an introduction to the nature of matter: elements, atoms, ions and molecules; the electronic structure of atoms and ions; bond formation, including covalent, ionic, metallic, hydrogen bonding, and van der Waals; solubility and the solution state; ions and hydration; the behaviour of gases; the mole concept; concentrations; stoichiometry; acids, bases, neutralisation reactions and salt formation; acid/base strength and the pH scale; energy and chemical systems; rates of reaction and reaction order; catalysis and enzymes; chemical equilibrium; the equilibrium constant, Ka, Kb, stability constants and solubility products; redox reactions and redox potentials; organic molecules: structure, nomenclature and functional groups; hydrophobicity and hydrophilicity; and biologically significant macromolecules.

    This subject will provide the student with the opportunity to establish and develop the following generic skills: the ability to use conceptual models and gather and rationalise data, problem-solving and critical thinking.

  • The objective of this subject is to familiarise students with modern concepts of genetics, animal and plant diversity and evolution.

    Topics studied include the nature of variation, inheritance, genes and chromosomes, human genetics, DNA replication, gene action and expression, population genetics, selection, the genetics of speciation, molecular evolution, evolutionary biology and the origin of life, classification of organisms diversity of life, communities, ecosystems and the relationship of organisms to their environment, human impact, preserving habitats and genetic variation.

  • The subject introduces students to natural environments, and the elements and systems that shape the natural world. A critical understanding of these elements and systems is fundamental, not only to the sustainable management of natural environments, but also to nearly all aspects of human endeavor therein: including biodiversity and recreation management, primary production (agriculture and forestry), urban and regional land-use planning, environmental design (architecture and engineering), and local through to global environmental policy. In this subject, the student draws upon case studies and concepts from a broad range of disciplines to explore key components and processes of natural environments, and learns practical skills in landscape assessment for sustainable management and design. Major themes explored include plate tectonics; rocks and minerals; landscape processes and soil formation; weather, climate and climate change; microclimate; the water cycle and catchment hydrology; landscape ecology and the distribution, properties and functioning of different ecosystems. Practical skills in landscape assessment and interpretation are emphasised, as well as an appreciation of the effect of scale and temporal change in the examination of natural environments.

  • This subject is about the application of economic analysis to public choices about alternative resource uses.

  • Physiology is the integrative study of the control of normal body function. This subject will examine the functions of different cell types and their interactions in organs and tissues; mechanisms by which organs are controlled and their functions are regulated; thermoregulatory processes and fluid balance; the physiology of the nervous system, of digestion, circulation, respiration, and excretion; the processes of growth and development, and factors that can be manipulated to alter animal performance under normal conditions.

  • An understanding of the chemical processes that occur in living organisms is essential to understanding how plants, animals and microbes function, and therefore the best management practices that will result in optimal health and productivity. This subject is designed to introduce students to the discipline of biochemistry, to allow them to develop a basic understanding of the biological chemistry underpinning function at the cellular and system levels. Topics covered will include: cellular structure and biochemical function, structure of biomolecules including proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, energy generating pathways, photosynthesis, metabolism, fixation and assimilation of nitrogen, transformation of metals, phosphorus and sulphur, comparative metabolism in ruminants and avians and the regulation of metabolism by hormones and isoprenoids.

  • This subject allows students to develop an awareness of the major physiological processes and metabolic basis of nutritional requirements; to understand the nutritional qualities of food, and develop skills to ensure a balanced diet can be formulated for a range of mammals; to be familiar with the impact of dietary imbalances; and to understand the role of food in behavioural, psychological and social contexts.

  • This subject involves completion of a minimum of 80 hours work placement integrating academic learning, employability skills and attributes and an improved knowledge of organisations, workplace culture and career pathways. The placement is supplemented by pre- and post-placement classes designed to introduce skills for developing, identifying and articulating employability skills and attributes and linking them to employer requirements. The placement should draw on specific discipline skills associated with the course of enrolment. Pre-placement seminars will also include consideration of career planning and professional skills.

    Students are responsible for identifying a suitable work placement, prior to the start of semester, with support from the Subject Coordinator and Faculty Enrichment Officer. In the semester prior to the placement students should attend Melbourne Careers Centre (MCC) employment preparation seminars and workshops and access other MCC and Faculty resources to help identify potential host organisations Students will need to commence their approaches to organisations at least 4 weeks before the placement. More information is available on the Faculty website: Placements must be approved by the Subject Coordinator or Faculty Enrichment Officer prior to commencement. If you have problems finding a placement you should approach the Subject Coordinator or Faculty Enrichment Officer well in advance of the teaching period.

    On completion of the subject, students will have completed and reported on a course-related project in a workplace. They will also have enhanced employability skills including communication, interpersonal, analytical and problem-solving, organisational and time-management, and an understanding of career planning and professional development.

  • This subject introduces students to the major factors influencing the health of production animals. Students will learn the principles of disease, with a focus on non-infectious diseases. Students should develop an understanding of how management factors can influence the development of disease in production animals, and how the type of production system can alter the risk of disease.

  • This subject builds on the knowledge and skills developed in VETS20017 Principles of Production Animal Health 1. In this subject, students will further develop their understanding of the major factors influencing the health of production animals. Students will learn more details about specific pathogens that can infect the major production animal species in Australia The principles of public health, with particular reference to zoonotic diseases of concern in production animal systems, will also be introduced. Students can then integrate this knowledge with their previous knowledge from VETS20017 Principles of Production Animal Health 1 to explain in more depth how management factors can influence the development of disease in production animals, and how the type of production system can alter the risk of disease.

    This subject includes a one-day residential at the Dookie campus which will occur during the mid-semester break.

  • This subject provides students with an introduction to a number of statistical techniques which are frequently used in agriculture, science and business situations. Course content will be set within the context of practical problems. Technology will be used to support statistical calculations.

    Topics include an introduction to sampling techniques and experimental design; descriptive treatment of sample data; introduction to elementary probability and distributions; estimation and hypothesis testing of means and proportions; the chi-square distribution; simple and multiple regression and correlation; one-factor and two-factor analysis of variance; and use of statistical computer packages.

  • This subject will identify the importance of soil and water in the landscape and as key components of natural and production systems. A basic knowledge of soil properties and behaviour will be applied to understanding the cycling of water and nutrients, the appropriate use of fertilisers, irrigation and drainage and soil management practices designed to maintain or improve the condition of soil and water resources. The origin of soil variation in the landscape and codification of soil information through classification will be introduced.

  • The Australian food industry plays an important role in the Australian economy. The industry encompasses a number of segments from agricultural production, food processing and distribution through to retail sales. A key feature of the food industry is its diversity. The future of the industry will be affected by how well it responds to the changing demands of society.

    This subject introduces students to food production systems and challenges them to create more sustainable approaches to this production. Topics include, food production in Australia - where it happens and why - how it is changing to meet both the needs of the environment and society, associated impacts on the sustainability of regional communities, trade and policy issues which impact on distribution, global food movements and ongoing changes and innovations in global food markets, as well as resource economics implications in developing and developed countries. Future implications of policy and legislative and other changes will be assessed in terms of their impact on the changing structure of food production in Australia.

  • This subject elaborates on the scientific basis of disease recognition in populations of animals. It explores causes of disease in animal populations, the mechanisms of disease processes and their transmission, principles of biosecurity, and the scientific basis of technologies and procedures available for monitoring disease status. Students will acquire skills in a variety of techniques used to monitor the health of populations of animals, and will develop abilities in critical analysis of animal health reports.

  • This subject expands on the themes developed in VETS30011 Animal Disease Biotechnology 1 and the role of animal health surveillance in maintaining the health of human populations. The subject may include industry placements, with opportunities to develop laboratory skills in areas such as haematology, biochemistry, serology, microbiology, molecular biology, anatomic pathology and toxicology.

  • Success in animal enterprises and systems is a result of interdisciplinary interactions between animal, plant, climatic, human, risk and market factors. This subject aims to develop the skills required to analyse these interactions and support decision-making in animal enterprises. The subject is taught using problem-based learning by doing. Students will conduct system management case study analyses during the semester, and submit a detailed report on these. Each case study is based on an animal enterprise or system. Case study analysis will require students to clearly identify the problem to be solved and the context for problem solving (including business and personal goals of the owners/managers and their approach to management and decision making), analyse options for solving the problems and meeting goals, and prepare a report of their findings for the 'client'. Case study visits are supplemented by lectures and tutorials that develop the theory and practice of system thinking and analysis. The subject integrates biophysical science disciplines, management economics, and human systems elements. It is designed to enable students to work effectively with the owners and managers of animal businesses in bringing about change in their system.

  • This subject develops knowledge and understanding of systems for regulating body function, and physiological and behavioural processes that are utilised by animals in response to environmental challenges. This basis will allow students to evaluate and assess animal welfare and ethical issues that confront livestock production and amenity use of animals in society. The subject will also develop knowledge in adaptation, preference testing, cognition, and short and long-term biological responses.

    Specific topics covered include;

    • The current debate about animal usage and animal welfare
    • Systems regulating the body (homeostasis, motivation and control systems, and development of regulatory systems)
    • Limits to adaptation (stimulation, tolerance and coping, variation in adaptation)
    • Stress and welfare (Selye’s concept of stress and refinements to the concept, coping and fitness, definition of welfare and its assessment)
    • Assessing welfare using short-term and long-term biological responses
    • Assessing welfare using preference testing
    • Assessing welfare by studying cognitive skills
    • Ethical problems concerning welfare
    • Welfare issues in agriculture and the general community; and codes of practice for the welfare of livestock and welfare solutions
  • The aim of this subject is to give students of animal science a fundamental understanding of both applied reproductive biology and genetics. This will enable students to develop the skills necessary for management of reproductive performance and to implement genetic improvement of domestic animals. The content includes comparative structure and function of reproductive organs; endocrinology and neuro-endocrinology of reproductive cycles; environmental and genetic influences on reproduction, interventions to manipulate reproduction; reproductive biotechnologies including cloning; breeding values and selection indices; inbreeding and crossbreeding; applied animal genomics.

  • Pastures and grasslands comprise the dominant vegetation cover across the Australian continent. The way pastures and grasslands are managed is therefore central to the sustainable use of natural resources such as soil and water, as well as the economic development of the pasture-based livestock industries (meat and wool sheep, beef cattle, and dairy).

    This subject will include:

    • An overview of Australia's pasture and grassland resources
    • The population biology of pasture plants, including the growth cycles of annual and perennial plants, and pathways of plant survival
    • The major pasture plant species and pasture types, their agronomic and adaptive characteristics and management requirements
    • Pasture improvement principles and practices
    • Plant and pasture growth processes influencing the accumulation of yield in pastures, and implications for management
    • The feeding and nutritive value of pastures and factors affecting animal intake
    • The principles and practices of grazing management
  • Globally there is a broad range of issues identified as impacting on the future of our planet. These issues include climate change, water availability and quality, waste and recycling, energy, biodiversity, salinity and land degradation, biotechnology and genetically modified organisms, changing demographics, human and animal welfare issues. In order to bring about change globally these issues must be addressed at the regional and national level.
    The long term future of our rural communities will depend on how we meet these challenges. This subject will explore these issues at the catchment level analysing how these issues impact on the catchment, practice change requirements, and develop strategies for decision making and implementation as well as critically evaluating environmental, social and economic implications of change.

  • Students will use case studies in agricultural systems to explore how learning and practice change occur in natural resource management and agriculture. The subject will provide students with an understanding of how and why people take up knowledge and information and as well as the impediments to adoption. Students will develop the skills to enable them to generate, acquire, apply and make accessible the knowledge needed to enhance material, human, social and environmental wellbeing.

  • On completion of this subject students should be able to:

    • Describe the scale and distribution of the major irrigation systems in south-eastern Australia

    • Evaluate plant water requirements in terms of water quality and frequency of supply

    • Apply basic principles of hydraulics to the selection of irrigation systems appurtenances and structures

    • Assess irrigation systems in terms of efficiency, economy, energy-use and environmental impact

    • Recognise the advantages and disadvantages of common irrigation systems

    • Recognise the need for efficient irrigation drainage as well as water supply

    The content includes:

    • Water supply potential for the development of irrigation systems, management planning and operation of water allocations, water law, cost benefit analysis, environmental and energy-use implications of resource utilisation and development, efficiency of irrigation systems and long-term viability

    • Climatic factors in irrigation development, rainfall, evaporation, evapotranspiration and hydrology

    • Plant physiology and plant water use, transpiration crop water requirements in terms of water quality and quantity

    • Soils and water, soil moisture retention and movement, plant root zones and development, infiltration and leaching

    • Irrigation scheduling, soil moisture measurement

    • Types of irrigation systems, selection of irrigation systems, irrigation drainage, seepage, surface and subsurface drainage systems, salinity, conveyance and disposal of drained effluent, re-use systems, management of irrigation systems, operations and maintenance requirements

  • This subject outlines the methods used to identify pathogens causing plant diseases, the consequences of diseases for plant productivity; and techniques used in breeding for plant disease resistance. The links between these two areas are explored as plant breeders and pathologists seek novel genetic material capable of resisting or tolerating plant pathogens.

    Topics covered include:

    • Taxonomy, identification and biology of the main groups of plant pathogens and abiotic causes of plant diseases
    • Host pathogen relationships, and the nature of disease resistance and pathogenesis
    • Methods to identify pathogens, and development of tools for diagnosis
    • Processes leading to plant disease epidemics and their evaluation
    • Principles and methodology of plant breeding for disease resistance
    • Evolutionary processes and genetic variability of plant and pathogen populations
    • World-wide distribution and conservation of plant genetic resources
    • Methods of breeding self– and cross-pollinating plants
    • Management and integrated control of plant diseases

    Practical work includes:

    • Identification and diagnosis of common diseases
    • Development of skills in research techniques and methodology in plant pathology
  • This is a capstone subject which allows students to integrate the knowledge gained from their previous studies in the major in Production Animal Health and apply this to real world situations. Management practices to ensure optimal health and productivity will be covered in depth. Students will learn to interpret data from production systems in order to evaluate productivity, and then develop strategies for increasing the health and productivity of production animals. Students will develop an understanding of the financial limitations on production systems, and how health and management strategies must fit within an economical framework, otherwise the business is not viable.

    There will be opportunities for industry placements and to participate in syndicate case-based scenarios. Students will be expected to gather and record data, and model this information in terms of indices of productivity. They will be expected to be able to benchmark these results against national industry standards, and to propose and evaluate strategies for improving productivity.

    Students will be required to complete three weeks of work placement in production animal related industries.

  • This subject involves a supervised study of an area of scholarship chosen by the student in consultation with an appointed supervisor. The subject encourages independent, critical thought and self-directed enquiry. Students should develop their ability to plan work and use available time effectively. This is an individualised subject, which enables students to pursue studies in areas of agriculture and related fields, not otherwise covered in the normal subjects offered within the degree structure. Students who complete this subject should be able to demonstrate:

    • In-depth knowledge of a specific contemporary topic in agriculture and land management
    • The ability to analyse and report on the topic in a manner appropriate to the methodology developed
    • An advanced capability for development of processes for acquisition, management, analysis, integration and interpretation of data and information